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2016 GMC Sierra: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2015

The 2016 GMC Sierra is a full-size pickup that comes in a wide range of flavors, from jobsite workhorse to high-dollar luxury hauler. All new for 2014, the Sierra boasts an intimidating list of configurations thanks to a wide range of engine choices, trim levels and cab or bed lengths.

So what's it like? Well, for one thing, the styling is surprisingly similar to the outgoing Sierra model, which lasted from 2007 to 2013. Don't be fooled, though: The Sierra is totally new on the inside, under the skin and under the hood. It offers three new engines, a redesigned interior and new features that range from a more compliant suspension to improved technology. Drivers who use the pickup for demanding work purposes shouldn't fear the updates, as the latest Sierra is still just as capable as it's ever been.

What's New for 2016?

The 2016 Sierra receives a mild freshening that includes a slightly updated front fascia, along with new technology features such as wireless smartphone charging, automatic high beams, lane-keep assist and a remote-locking tailgate.

What We Like

Class-leading interior; vastly improved steering and handling; technology tops rival pickups

What We Don't

Styling is a little too similar to the outgoing truck

How Much?

$28,500-$55,100

Fuel Economy

The 2016 GMC Sierra offers three engines: a 4.3-liter V6 that makes 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft and a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. All Sierra models include a standard 6-speed automatic, though GM has hinted that an 8-speed might debut midyear for V8 power plants.

Not surprisingly, fuel economy is best with the 4.3-liter V6. That engine returns 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with 2-wheel drive or 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive.

Pick the 5.3-liter V8, and you'll find fuel economy doesn't drop as much as you might think. The Environmental Protection Agency rates that engine at 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive or 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive. Topping the range is the mighty 6.2-liter, which returns 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive or 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

Like all full-size pickups (and its Silverado sibling), the Sierra comes with a wide array of choices ranging from bed sizes to cab preference, drivetrain, engine and trim level. We've simplified things and organized the truck's features by trim level, but choosing the right Sierra for you will likely involve more than simply picking a trim.

Pick a base-level Sierra ($28,500), and you're stuck, as you might expect, with the basics. That means power locks, cruise control, air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo but no simple conveniences such as keyless entry or power windows. With that said, base-level Sierra models do include a USB port and an auxiliary jack.

Next up is the SLE ($35,200), which adds all the base model's missing luxuries, such as keyless entry, power windows, SiriusXM radio, a CD player and a few more goodies. Such items include GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system, a backup camera and LED lighting in the bed.

Next up is the Sierra SLT ($42,600), which is only offered as a double cab or crew cab pickup. The SLT offers a long list of standard features, including leather upholstery, dual power front seats, heated mirrors and a locking rear differential. SLT models also come standard with the Sierra's 5.3-liter V8, while base and SLE models offered it as an option.

Topping the Sierra lineup is the Denali ($51,600), which only comes in crew cab form and includes the pickup's 6.2-liter V8 engine as standard equipment. Denali models include a long list of standard features, from chrome accents and leather seats to a heated steering wheel and an upscale Bose surround sound system.

As for options, the Sierra has several. Extras include a power sunroof, a navigation system, cooled seats, power adjustable pedals and 4-wheel drive. Additionally, drivers can add safety features like forward-collision alert and a lane-departure warning system. New for 2016 are a wireless cellphone-charging system, automatic high beams and lane-keep assist.

Safety

All GMC Sierra pickups include dual-front airbags, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, daytime running lights and a tire-pressure monitor. Options include a lane-departure warning system, a forward-collision alert system, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams and GM's OnStar system, which can call for help if there's an accident.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, the GMC Sierra and its twin, the Chevrolet Silverado, earned a perfect 5-star overall crash-test score, thereby becoming the first full-size trucks to do so.

Behind the Wheel

There's absolutely no doubt the Sierra rides and handles better than the old model. That's largely due to the new fully boxed frame, which clearly makes the truck feel more rigid and stable than the old version. It also helps towing, as do the fully integrated trailer brakes. We couldn't live without the tow/haul mode, which takes the guesswork out of manually operating the automatic transmission when you'd rather be focusing on things such as guiding the pickup safely up a hill.

We were further impressed with the Sierra's interior. One major plus is the center-mounted 8-inch LCD screen, which is positioned perfectly so you don't have to take your eyes far off the road to use it. The same is true of the LCD screen mounted in the gauge cluster. It's far better than the Sierra's former pixelated display. We enjoyed the huge sunroof, though wind noise got a little loud.

We also loved the Sierra's gadgets. Compared to just a few short years ago, it's hard to believe a truck now has USB ports, navigation, in-vehicle apps, wireless cellphone charging and a center-mounted touchscreen. The only gadget we didn't enjoy was the voice-control system, which we had trouble using for both navigation and audio functions.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Silverado -- It may seem obvious, but you'll probably want to check out the Silverado if you're also interested in the Sierra. These two trucks are mechanical twins, and you might find that the Chevy offers a better deal than the GMC, or vice versa.

2016 Ford F-150 -- The all-new Ford F-150 provides close competition to the Sierra and Silverado, boasting excellent fuel economy, high-strength towing and payload capacities and a heavily modernized interior.

2016 RAM 1500 -- The RAM 1500 offers available air suspension and famous HEMI V8 power. There's still no other light-duty pickup with an available diesel engine.

Used Toyota Tundra -- The Tundra is refined and muscular, offering a strong rival to the Sierra. However, the Tundra still can't trump the Sierra's wide range of bed, cab and engine configurations.

Autotrader's Advice

You can't go wrong with any 2016 Sierra -- assuming you pick the truck that works for your lifestyle -- so we don't suggest the base-level Sierra if you're the kind of driver who enjoys gadgets, and we don't suggest the Denali if you're going to visit dirty jobsites or rutted country roads. Our dream Sierra is probably a Sierra SLT or a well-equipped Sierra SLE, though we certainly wouldn't turn down the Sierra Denali if we had the cash.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 GMC Sierra: New Car Review - Autotrader